How technology can serve the human race.

We all know how amazing technology can be to solve human problems and expand our horizons. The list of technology innovations just in the last 10 years are too numerous to list on one blog (but if I did – imagine the SEO value).

That’s why I love being in technology. I get to imagine how some new technology innovation can make my life better (I don’t say easier anymore though). Sometimes though, not only can technology help serve the human race – it can directly save lives.

This is one of those times.

Paltalk has partnered with the leading world organization to stop malaria from killing children, March on Washingtons. This organization coordinates activities from numerous resources to distribute real medicine and provide bednets.

Paltalk will be using its technology to support this important initiative.

First on September 15, in coordination with the opening of the UN General Assembly, Paltalk will host an all day video chat telethon (11:00 – 5:00PM Eastern Standard) to raise awareness about this deadly killer. During the event, Paltalk will have special guests to talk to people from all over the world about how this life threatening disease can be prevented. They will share ideas on how the disease can be stopped from spreading or what effective treatments can be. For the entire day, people will be able to talk and see each other as we together fight this disease. The Paltalk technology that allows lots of people from all over to see and hear each other is too awesome, especially when used in the service of humanity.

Then, Paltalk will use this campaign to donate $1 in hard cash for any new download of our free software. Our technology delivers what Skype delivers and more. We are better than the best IM software (like MSN) because you can do multi person voice and video chat. And we give people what webex does but you can do a 10 person video conference call for free all the time.

In short, Paltalk technology gives you great free services that normally cost a bundle for free – no catches.

Join me in this noble fight. Spread the word. Get anyone you know to download Paltalk.

The math is easy.

  • 1 download = $1 donated from Paltalk to fight malaria
  • Get 5 friends to download = $5 will be donated and that’s enough to buy 1 bednet to prevent the disease.
  • 1 life saved

Here are the details http://www.paltalk.com/fightmalaria.

It doesn’t get easier than that. Ain’t technology great :)

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

Top 6 Free Social Marketing Technologies for E-Commerce Success

                              

I am often asked by friends who have ecommerce sites what they can do to improve sales. They have noticed current E-Commerce tools like SEO and Pay-Per-Click advertising are no longer delivering the bang they once did. And my friends also know that “social marketing” has become a valuable marketing tool, but they are not sure what terms like word of mouth, grass roots, and viral marketing even mean – much less what they can do to drive business.

 

So I recently posted an article on HostReview on my top 6 free social marketing technologies for E-Commerce. http://www.hostreview.com/icontent/the-blog/top-6-free-social-marketing-technologies-e-commerce-success

 

As I wrote in the article, these tools are … “all free … all powerful … to help drive your business.”

 

1) Create an online community.
Why is an online community important for E-Commerce? It allows a company to utilize their customers as evangelists; enlisting them to advocate your brand to potential customers. Additionally, this expands your ability to engage with existing or potential customers. For example, take a look at a case study put together by Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) about how
customer recommendations influence buying products and services.

 

Myspace offer online networking and Paltalk offers free, on-site communal chat rooms that can include webcam chat.

 

2) Stay abreast of your category by subscribing to Google Alerts.
This is a totally free service that allows a business owner to track trends in their industry. Simply list which keywords you are interested in, and Google will send you news, blogs, web pages, etc…that include those words.

 

Why is this important? It’s because social marketing is about participating in the conversation. Once you see which articles and reporters are relevant to your category, you can participate – and in a meaningful way.

 

3) Deploy a Customer Feedback platform
E-merchants can also take advantage of free customer feedback platforms. One such platform is UserTrust offered by Comodo, a leading provider in online verification and security infrastructure services. UserTrust is a
free tool which allows online merchants to gather customer feedback. Just as important, site visitors can see other user’s real experiences. These testimonials provide one of the most powerful social marketing technologies available on the market.

 

4) Utilize free digital PR
In order to create additional SEO rich content, online merchants can create press releases and distribute them using free digital PR sites such as
i-Newswire.com, PR-inside.com, PRLog.org, Free-Press-Release.com and 24-7pressrelease.com. Don’t be intimidated to write these releases yourself – they need not be brilliant works of literary art. Your press releases should reflect news that your customers or prospects care about (even if the NYTimes will not). You can announce a new product or a big customer win or even a great review.

 

The point is that this tactic is mainly about driving improved SEO rankings and ultimately traffic to your site.

 

5) Blog it
Creating and regularly posting on a blog is another good way to increase SEO value. WordPress.com is a free platform that lets users quickly and easily create a blog.

 

6) “Birds of a feather” affinity marketing
It’s useful to know what your customer profile looks like, not to mention those of your competitors. Quantcast is a
free service that gives you a demographic profile of a website’s visitors. Their reports also include a fair amount of detail on what your audience likes and even other sites they visit. This information can be invaluable in helping businesses identify opportunities.

 

So there you have it – my top 6. I will keep adding to this list as I uncover new tools that really work. If you have had great success with a social marketing technology – I’d love to hear about it. Share the knowledge –

 

Judy Shapiro

Untapped potential – the Susan Boyle phenom

                                                          

I admit it – I am probably one of the only people on the planet who does not like American Idol (or Britain’s Got Talent version). It requires too much of the entertainment value to come from the inevitable humiliation that hopefuls are willing to subject themselves to.

 

But Susan Boyle gave me a reason to believe in human potential again and it was a breathtaking moment. Her triumph was the vicarious triumph of anyone who was written off just because of how they looked or because of who their parents were. 

 

It was a moment of triumph for many of us. This is where the social media shows its true power and influence. Within minutes, uTube had the footage. Within hours, there were blogs posts and interviews and Susan Boyle became an overnight digital brand.

 

Astonishing was the speed of her rise. Astonishing was the speed of her broad reach. Most astonishing still, was the desire so many people had to relive and share her amazing experience. And the new digital social media … from Twitter to Paltalk to uTube …  lets us share more broadly and more spontaneously than ever before.

 

Now that’s tapping the biggest source of potential – the human sprit.

 

Judy Shapiro

Top 5 reasons why social networks will drive how the next generation web will evolve.

                       

We’ve heard the buzz… Web 3.0, semantic web, smarter web (who knew it was stupid in the first place). But beyond the buzz, the idea of the next generation web is simple. How does the web evolve from a generic, impersonal place to a place where we can have a personal experience? How can I get information that is relevant to me? How can I use the web the way I want? How can I create a personal web for myself?

 

The answer becomes clearer when we put the human element at the heart of the conversation which this leads us to, you guessed it, our social networks. Nothing is more personal than our social networks so it’s best to start there in building the next web.

 

Now amazingly, technology that lets us create digital social networks and these social networks are growing like crazy. Companies like Facebook, Paltalk and Linkedin have spread so fast because they begin (mind you only begin) to introduce trust within our newly interconnected and now largely untrusted world.

 

That’s what today’s Paltalk TechNow interactive video event was about. It was entitled; Transforming the Web into YOUR web and it was about what will the next web look like. The show featured Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo and his point was that the foundation of the next generation web is built on trust delivered via an authentication layer. I believe he is right. And taken further, it’s useful to remember that trust is first and foremost a function of social networks. By putting trust at the center of the conversation this puts the emphasis where it belongs – on the human factor. We need trust and we need social networks to help permeate trust within the new web. .

 

And that is why I can make my claim about the critical nature of social networks in the next generation web. I can even back up my assertion with a top 5 list :

 

1) Social networks have begun to dominate people’s online activity. According to Neilson, already 1 in every 11 online minutes is spent in social networks (that’s a lot of time given how new the space is).

 

2) Social networks will become people’s new communications hub. It already provides a diverse set of options for connecting with more people than ever,,, in chat rooms, with IM and in real time broadcasts. This trend will only continue.

 

3) Information obtained via social networks is more trusted than non vetted information. Just like in the real world where I would probably ask my lawyer friend for legal advice, we will  begin our online searches first within our social networks.

 

4) Law of numbers … 2/3 of people use one form of social media or another and more than use email! (Source: Computerworld 3/10/09).  Social networks are becoming our filter into the big and sometimes overwhelming world of Google. Our networks will help us sort good information from bad information.

 

5) Social networks are where people will live more and more when they go online. John Burbank, CEO of Nielson Online said, “Social networking will continue to alter not just the global online landscape, but the consumer experience at large. Social networking isn’t just growing rapidly, it’s evolving — both in terms of a broader audience and compelling new functionality,”

 

So if you want to guess how the next gen web will evolve, look no further than your own networks.

 

Trust the human element. Trust your “peeps”. 

 

Judy Shapiro

The Connected Singularity Is Near

                                      

I have read with relish the book by Kurzweil, The Singularity is Near and I respectfully borrow the phrase. The fundamental premise of his book is that we have approached “the knee of the curve” in our technological evolution, the moment where the pace of change will fundamentally change our biological evolution. Essentially, he argues with good cause, that change is happening faster and more fundamentally than most fully appreciate. 

And I think he’s right based on my personal experience. Much like a woman born at the turn of the last century, who saw in her lifetime the evolution from horseback to space travel, I too have seen a similar step change evolution in the connectiveness of the planet in a mere 15 years. In that time, I saw the transition from limited, one to one communications that was very expensive (I remember the days when a long distance call was a big thing) to a model where we can be connected with virtually no limits in terms of distance or scope.   

It is breathtaking … but I think Kurzweil limits his scope. Kurzweil places technology at the center of the change engine but I think if we focus on technology as the key driver, we limit its potential. We must remind ourselves to put the human factor at the heart of the technology evolution – not the other way around.  

And this focus on the human element must also apply to how the next generation Internet, sometimes called Web 3.0, will evolve. We must give full expression within this evolution to our human instinct to establish trusted connectedness in the web world in the same way we enjoy trusted connectedness in the real world.  

Yet in the conversations today about next generation web there is decided lack of focus on the human factor, (heck even the name Web 3.0 betrays the techno focus). For Google, the next generation web is about technology that delivers a personal web experience via intelligent search agent. For other companies, semantic technology that lets computers understand meaning better, is how the new, next web will evolve. All these technologies are all important, but they are a only a means to an end.  

The end game for the next generation web is the creation of this trusted model of community, commerce and communications for everyone just like we have in our everyday, real worlds. This model puts the human need to trust as central to the conversation — not be peripheral to the thinking. This, for me, suggests we are creating a connected singularity in a Connected Web enabled by a concept of Social Authentication put forward by Comodo. For this new “Connected Web” to work, it must be grounded on trust and trusted networks.  

This is why Paltalk will be hosting the third TechNow event; Transforming the Web into YOUR Web airing March 19 at 3:00 (EST) with Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO and Chief Security Architect of Comodo. During this live, interactive event, Melih will challenge conventional thinking about how we create the emerging next generation Web, sharing his vision about how a Connected Web needs to be based on trust. Melih will be joined by noted industry analyst, Henry Blodget of Alley Insider, in a discussion about:  

·         Current technical versions and major scenarios associated with next generation Web (semantic, 3D, pervasive, media-centric, etc.)

·         The potential and benefit of web 3.0 for every day people?

·         The functional model of how next generation Internet technologies will combine to deliver this new, next Connected Web  

·         How do we leverage the intelligence of people within a social authentication™ framework as is being defined today by Comodo?

·         How will a trust and authentication layer be introduced into connected community, ecommerce and communications networks?

 

Live, interactive video chat: 

Date: Thursday, March 19th

Time: 3:00pm EST

Room Name: TechNow Network

 

Visit http://technow.paltalk.com/crashdummies for more information, to watch past shows and to sign up for a reminder email. 

 

Join the conversation. Join the movement towards a trusted Connected Web.

 

Judy Shapiro

What’s up?

            

It’s a common greeting among kids.  “Hey, what’s up?” they ask wanting to get the latest updates on what’s happening in their friends lives.

 

Now technology provides a way to let our connections perpetually know “What’s Up” with us – all the time, if we want. The new social networking platform has made the act of keeping up easy and far more powerful than ever before. But the new digital transparency raises some tough questions.

 

How do we keep our sensitive information out of the hands of fraudsters as we tweet publically about what we buy and where we are?

 

How do we know if a “friend request” is real or really some Trojan virus planted on a site?

 

How does security, identity management and social networking intersect to ensure a way to stay safe online?

 

Should there be standards for the social networking industry today? If so, who should drive it – the government, the industry or some other new standard body?

 

These are new and difficult questions that affect all of us. This is why I am pleased that Paltalk will be bringing a new series called TechNow where industry experts and you will discuss important technology issues of the day.

 

On Tuesday, March 3rd at 3pm EST we have two industry experts, Melih Abdulhayoglu, CEO of Comodo and Henry Blodget, CEO of Silicon Alley Insider, in a live interactive event entitled; Your Digital Identity – Manage It Or Lose It. They will delve into this compelling topic and I invite you to come along for the debate and share your thoughts, live.

 

To join the room when the event is on, March 3, 3:00 pm EST, please visit http://TechNow.Paltalk.com. To learn more about the event or submit a question, please go to http://TechNow.Paltalk.com/crashdummies

 

Now when you ask “What’s Up”, the answer can be just a click away. But are we too easy a mark? I want some answers. Join me as I get them.   

 

Judy Shapiro

 

Whatever.

Pity the poor agency person pitching me. I have actually felt sorry for them at times, until they start their pitch and then I remember why agencies infuriate me.

You see, I spent a dozen years at an agency before jumping to the client side. I know all the agency speak phrases that are meant to pacify clients that ask too many questions. I’ve been reminded of those phrases lately because I have been hearing lots of these phrases in lots of agency pitches in the past four months.

I miss the days when agencies prepared real proposals (“pitches”) with real tactics and costs. I don’t think most of these creative directors even know what a storyboard is anymore. Pitches nowadays seem to be have the “same” vague, unclear promises such as one promise that came from a social media agency where they claimed that “our article will be seen by 60 million people with hundreds of back links back to your site”.

Oh my — such big promises. It would make any inexperienced marketer sign up. I would.  But when you pick apart what exactly will they do get this level of activity, well the vague plans become even vaguer.

“Ah” – you say – “but my big agency does campaign plans, strategies and analysis”. I bet they do. And I bet you have lots of great looking strategic documents with very little specific results to show for it. And worse, the cost actually makes you think twice every time you pick up the phone. Unfortunately, based on feedback from my friends at large companies like Siemens and Avaya, I know full well that big agencies simply move too slow, are too late in picking up new tech trends and cost too much. Pity – because Paltalk is exactly the type of client where agencies can do the most good.

So after hearing countless pitches, I have come to the conclusion that either agencies are too clever for me or they never encountered a client who is an “Industry veteran” (as Forbes described me when I started at Paltalk), who knows what she wants and knows that agencies should be able to deliver it. When I question proposals (gasp — how dare I), I keep getting a vague air of “Trust us … you can’t get it … you’re not cool … only we cool agency types can get it”. This attitude is what gets my blood boiling. To add insult to injury, they act like clients should be grateful that they (said agency) even agrees to service them at all!

So what’s to be done? I love this industry too much to leave well enough alone. I propose that agencies must do nothing less than change their business model and it involves evolving to mirror the business of marketing that clients have to confront today!

But how? Well, here are my top 10 things that agencies can start doing differently. They are specific and actionable. I propose them because in these tough economic times, agencies need to either evolve or many will die.

The Agency 10 Step Recovery Plan.

1) Never confuse desired outcome with what you will actually do.

Promising results is fine .. but be clear and specific how you intend to do it. Is it too much to ask for details so when you say, we will have a blog campaign, that you explain how much time will be spent on blog postings. Don’t just promise results and leave the details as a vague “whatever”.

2) Be honest.

Stuff happens in any campaign. But when things go wrong in digital campaigns it is too easy to blame the client’s infrastructure. At least come to the table about what happened but don’t just shrug and say “whatever” (yes an agency person actually said that to me recently when I asked them about a troubling stat.)

3) Know what you know and make sure your client understands that.

Too often in an effort to be efficient, clients ask agencies to stretch beyond their competence – to the frustration of all. Much of digital marketing is technologically challenging – so don’t set yourself up to fail. Passing on business short term will win credibility in the long term.

4) Don’t propose campaigns you know are highly unlikely to be technically feasible.

Ok – this is one of my pet peeves. I ask an agency pitch me on a program with a clear deadline. Yet they insist on presenting ideas that can not be executed within the time frame I have. When I ask why they presented this idea, the answer is often “so you can see our depth”. All I can think is “whatever”.

5) Think about the business end game.

Agencies always “talk the talk” but they actually rarely “walk the walk”. Remember, clients pay agencies to deliver tangible business results – not just to do cool interactive stuff that no one associates with your brand. I even had one large digital agency tell me that they thought creating a highly viral campaign with a strong branding component was not possible. The best viral stuff can not be branded, they said. Obviously, my reaction to this agency was thanks very much but “whatever”.  I kept looking.

6) Create a campaign that engages the entire interaction lifecyle.

For some reason, agencies seem to stop short in their campaigns as though their job is done once the person has clicked or registered or done whatever action the campaign required. I rarely see thinking beyond the direct call to action. I am suggesting that agencies need to consider the full lifecycle management of the prospect; even they don’t have responsibility for executing the full plan. It would be nice to see how the concept extends beyond the banner campaign.

7)  Be humble.

The arrogance of interactive agencies sometimes amuses me but mostly just irritates me, especially since there is often a startling lack of business results to show for their arrogance. Again, recent experience had one agency tell me that they wanted to advertise with a banner campaign an interactive viral promotion to encourage consumer usage of the viral interactive device. When I asked how could you “advertise” a viral campaign that relies on the unexpected nature of the “gag”, I was told I didn’t get it. Another “whatever” moment.

8)  Be a technology leader to your client.

Delivering a traditional ad campaign is well understood by agencies and hence they often do a good job on these campaigns. Its all falls apart when the clients need integrated digital marketing campaigns. Then it gets messy. Very messy. Agencies do not integrate new technologies into their business model easily. Why? Because technology proficiency comes with depth, experience and time. Agency fee structures never ever supported this level of depth.

Clients always had to push agencies to adopt new technologies and nothing has changed. But clients need more guidance than ever – like what to do when PPC effectiveness really does start to decline. When will agencies finally step up to the plate and start leading their clients through the increasingly complex technology marketing game.

9) Clean house.

Start improving the level of skill and experience you hire to represent your agency. Stop hiring “children” who can talk the cool talk but who never lived through a tough business cycle. In the “old days” only the best MBAs from the best business schools were in account management. Real clients deserve real business smarts, not kids.

10) Execute!

Good ideas are nice … but execution is paramount. It is amazing how often campaigns are not to be completely executed. There are hitches, glitches and hiccups. Often, it is the result of a lack of homework and project management on the part of the agency. I find this the most baffling, largely because there is no excuse for it.

I am tired of feeling”whatever” when dealing with some marketing agencies. I want to be inspired. I want an agency to move me. And I have not found the right partner.

But take heart. I usually get what I want. I just have to work a bit harder at it.

Judy Shapiro

What’s the point?

                                 

I find myself in an usual business at a very unusual time.

 

After spending years working with technology leaders in telecommunications, software and security, I wanted to explore the expanding role of social networks in our everyday online worlds. So I went looking for opportunities in this new “cool” space. Not so easy given my decidedly lack of “coolness” (I haven’t seen “20 something” in a few decades). Yet nonetheless, in a sheer stroke of great luck and timing, I recently landed at Paltalk — the leader in social networking, about 4 months ago.

 

I settled in to learn about this space. I wanted to understand how can our networks provide us with the kind of verified information that our real world networks provide us all the time? How do we integrate the collective power of the Twitters and Facebooks and UTube’s into our everyday online activities? What’s the best way to stay transparent in our social networks, yet remain safe to prying digital eyes?

 

As all these new concepts were rolling around in my head in those first early weeks at Paltalk, the economic floor began to give way and everything changed. Day after day the bad news was rolling in – first the financial sector, then the business sector. The speed of the financial decline is breathtaking. And the awful ride is not over yet.

 

But business at Paltalk is good. In fact, just today, Jonathan Blum wrote an article entitled; A surprising winner in the downturn: consumer video conferencing, and Paltalk is the primary beneficiary of this trend. In fact, we seem to be the only highly profitable and financially healthy company in the social networking space.

 

Why you ask? I’ll share our secret – but be warned – it is a radical idea.

 

Our secret is that we spent 10 long hard years developing serious technology to deliver a well designed rich media, interactive real time communications platform. And then we did not just give it all away for free (though some of our best features like SuperIM are totally free). We reserved our highest quality video and audio technology for subscribers and subscriptions makes up the vast majority of our revenue. Unlike our competitors, we did not build a business model around ad revenue that, in hindsight, never materialized. Nope, we banked on people willing to pay for great quality. Gee – what a concept.

 

And now as I see an eerie déjà vu of tech bust of 2001 (only bigger), I wonder why we did we not learn our lesson? What’s the point of a just cool company like Twitter with no real business model beyond a vague allusion to some monetization strategy in the future.

 

The point is that “Cool” has no currency – I don’t care what the cool bloggers and reporters and VC’s think. Making money is cool today.

 

That’s the point!

 

Judy Shapiro

What’s face time?

    

Whoopi Goldberg had a funny special on Bravo a while ago about modern life as it is being experienced by those of us weaned on free love and then conscious parenting… She observed, rightly, that while our children are smarter than we are, we are raising a generation of “barbarians”. She was commenting on the fact that our children are proficient tweeters, and IM’ers and texters. But they have too little interactive with real people in the real world.

 

Enter face time.

 

I would bet that some enterprising young graduate student has already tracked how much less face time kids have today versus even just a generation ago. It is obvious – the only question is how much less face time do our kids today have versus even 20 years ago. I would bet the actual figure would horrify most of us.

 

Our kids spend more time in front of devices instead of spending time interacting with human beings. And they are the worse for it. It was Whoopi’s point and it is well worth noting.

 

So what to do? Instead of bemoaning the situation and throwing up your hands in surrender. Fight fire with fire. Use technology to solve the problem it created.

 

Enter video chat.

 

You heard me. For those of you who think it is not for them - think again and get over it. Our highly mobile kids need to be with us even if they are not with us. Video chat has become so easy, that most anyone can figure it out. There are a few ways to do this, including a free video chat software from a company called Paltalk. With this software (and a webcam) you can see your kids and they can see you. In fact up to 10 of you can see each at once. Go get it and get on with it.

 

Face time – delivered technology style.

 

Judy Shapiro  

What if?

            

As I explore the in’s and out’s of the business of social networking given my work at Paltalk, I have concurrently, unknowingly, also began an exploration on the meaning of nothing less than – everything.

 

Exploring the dynamics of social networking causes one to become philosophical about everything because social networks reflect every endeavor of the human spirit. Within a short span, I read three wonderful books, God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The Courtier and the Heretic by Matthew Stewart and Dalai Lama’s work – the Universe in a Single Atom – the convergence of science and spirituality.

 

These books explore how great thinkers understood the essence of life and our relationship with the universe. Are we accidental cosmic tourists? Is the notion a personal God “improbable” as Mr. Dawkins suggests? Is God merely the combined “substance” (the term Spinoza used) of all there is?

 

Before I knew it, these two threads wound themselves around each other and begun to form a new shape in my mind. Social networks will become the filter of how we will see the world. It will shape what we think, what we believe. To understand our world, we will look to our social networks.

 

And that evokes some interesting what if’s.

 

What if…

* We could create the different kinds of social networks in our online world as we have in the real world

* We could manage our fabric of networks fluidly to be most useful

* We could authenticate different networks to be trusted for different things.  

* We could leverage the collective intelligence of authenticated networks to help us transform the generic web into a personal web

* We could use our social networks as our eyes and ears into the digital universe

 

Hmm – more reading to do J.

 

Judy (burning the midnight oil) Shapiro

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